Atlantic Division 2014-15 Preview: Detroit Red Wings
COACH: Mike Babcock
2013-14 RECORD: 39-28-15, 93 points (fourth in Atlantic; lost to Bruins, 4-1, in first round)
VITAL SIGNS: 2.71 goals-for per game (17th); 2.80 goals-against per game (18th); 17.73 power play pct. (18th); 83.05 penalty kill pct. (12th); shootout record: 5-9
NOTABLE ARRIVALS: None
PROJECTED DEPTH CHART
Tomas Tatar — Pavel Datsyuk — Darren Helm
Justin Abdelkader — Henrik Zetterberg — Johan Franzen
Riley Sheahan — Stephen Weiss — Gustav Nyquist
Drew Miller — Luke Glendeing — Tomas Jurco
Daniel Cleary, Joakim Andersson
OUTLOOK: The good news for Detroit fans is that this is pretty much the same team that extended its major sports league record to 23 straight playoff appearances last spring. The bad news is that this is pretty much the same team that bowed out meekly to the Bruins in the first round. Consistency is one thing, stagnation is another, and these Wings have the look of a tired and injury-prone mix. Pavel Datsyuk is 36; Henrik Zetterberg turns 34 in October; Johan Franzen turns 35 in December, and Niklas Kronwall will be 34 in January. There's still some mileage on all those balding tires, but they're prone to the occasional blowout. (Datsyuk is already out four to five weeks with a separated shoulder.) This team, which led the league in man-games lost to injury last season, could struggle to generate offense if the veterans can't stay healthy. The defense is a middle-of-the-road unit that's not ideally suited to instigate a possession game or play with each other (they're all lefties). But the team's biggest problem is a lack of grit. They Red Wings are just not a very hard team to play against, and that's going to cost them in the long run.
PLAYER TO WATCH: Gustav Nyquist
Nyquist was not called up to the NHL until late November and still managed to lead the Red Wings in goals (28). He really turned it on late in the season, leading all NHL players in goals from Jan. 20 to the end of the regular season, but NHL history is littered with players who had one great goal-scoring campaign before reverting to a mediocre norm. Nyquist will be in tough to prove that he can be a consistent producer, especially when he won't have the benefit of the element of surprise this time around.
PREDICTION: 90 points, fifth in Atlantic